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America the Beautiful



EXCERPTS from The New York Times in bold:

“Katharine Lee Bates was not only a poet, but a social activist, an American patriot and world pacifist who wanted to unite people ‘from the Pacific to the Atlantic, around the other way … and that will include all the nations and all the people from sea to shining sea.’ That Mitt Romney loves this poem is encouraging; that he misses the ironies is disquieting.

It’s been called a hymn, a prayer – written by a rebel against religious dogma who nearly quit her job when Wellesley insisted that faculty members sign a pledge confirming their Christian beliefs. She was raised poor but educated, by a single mother (her father, who was a minister, died when she was 5), in Falmouth, Mass., which she later described as ‘a friendly little village that practiced a neighborly socialism.’

Bates spent most of her adult life in a household that included, over time, her female partner, one parrot, and two collies – neither of which is known to have traveled on top of her car.

She was also born and bred a Republican, but in 1924 her presidential vote went to John W. Davis, the candidate who supported the League of Nations, which she saw as ‘our one hope of peace on earth.’ Davis was a Democrat.

Lynn Sherr, a broadcast journalist and writer, is the author of ‘America the Beautiful: The Stirring True Story Behind Our Nation’s Favorite Song.’”

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